The First Annual unConventional
HMS Talents Program 2012

The seed of an idea:

There is so much more we want to learn!
Why can't we work with talents kids in other grades?
I wish Think Lab and Communications lasted longer than one hour a week!

We've heard these comments from our students for years, so this year we decided to respond with the unConventional! We started by asking the kids to suggest intriguing topics and questions they wanted to explore. Here were some of their ideas:
  • games - video games - how do they work - Alton?
  • how the sequin works
  • misunderstandings
  • Geology
  • novelist - how do you write a novel?
  • what is life?
  • philosophy
  • questions to ponder
  • theater and script writing
  • how movies are made - cameras & editing
  • construction & designing of bridges
  • designing machines and how they work
  • Atlantis; famous shipwrecks - Titanic - causes
  • marine biology
  • exercise/learn and do
  • Emu/flightless birds
  • Cooking/Baking/Eating - science of it
  • physics - what’s really possible? what’s impossible? what’s in the grey area???
  • time - the unyear; calendars
  • ghosts
  • secret language
  • codes
  • parody
  • biology
  • time travel & other mysteries....
  • stand-up comedy
  • rubber boots
  • mazes
  • drawing of different things
  • sculpture
  • unusual laws that still exist - and why
  • cryptozoology, ufos/mars
  • puppets
  • poetry
  • engineering
  • robotics
  • cupcake making
  • food taster
  • different versions of fairy tales - how stories based on culture and time
  • music recording
  • potato cannons - how they work and how to make them
  • art of war - war history - strategy; Roman war strategy
  • early health and medicine
  • freestyle rap
  • aerodynamics - airplane wings, gliders
  • vending machines - how do they work?
  • Roman engineering - aquaducts
  • how did football, lacrosse, basketball originate?
  • analysis of comics (why does Arthur have pets?)
  • haiku
  • optical illusions/sequins?/light phenomena
  • manga
  • Egyptology, ancient cultures (Greece, Fall of Rome); Chinese Empire - terra cotta warriors
  • history of Latin
  • evolution
  • English language - evolution; why do we call stuff what we do call it?
  • wireless electricity - how does it work?
  • inventor
* how technology works today - computers behind the scenes - what’s there? what do we take advantage of?

Then we set out to find passionate community members to share their knowledge and expertise in some of these areas with our kids.

These were the sessions for students to choose from:

  • Making a Pinhole Camera
  • Physics of the Impossible: Is Time Travel Possible?
  • Cryptozoological 'zine making (drawing)
  • Pet Peeves - the illustrated picture book
  • Digital Graphic Design
  • The Science Behind Cooking
  • Origami Virus - the "why" of shapes in nature
  • Invention Creation: from brainstorming to patents
  • Reptiles! (featuring real ones)

These adults volunteered their time and resources to spend the morning with our students to inquire, question, investigate, hypothesize, exclaim, laugh, wonder and learn. And what were the results? We ended up with the perfect illustration of our latest mantra: inquiry is truly a social emotional need for curious thinkers! See for yourself.....

1st Annual unConventional

Pinhole Camera photos

And here is the feedback we heard in the days following the unConventional. A powerful message came through: we want more! So keep your eyes open for unConventional 2013!

Student feedback:

“I feel like I just got back from an amusement park!”

“I like being able to be taught around kids different ages that we don’t usually get to learn with.”

“I loved working with people I don’t usually work with, and learning about topics I didn’t know anything about.”

“We got to explore new ideas and concepts in a fun way.”

“Sheer creativeness, geniusness (is that a word?) and awesomeness.” [of the day]

“It felt really fluid and loose and we didn’t have a required agenda.”

“It was informal and the meetings with the professionals carried the same feel.”

“It felt more relaxed, and I think it allowed students to express their ideas very freely.”

“We didn’t just spend a few minutes everywhere, we actually talked.”

“It was perfectly crazy and perfectly perfect.”

“It was very loose with freedom to think and move.”

“It was fun, and you didn’t always have to be serious. I liked that.”

“It was about learning all kinds of different things, instead of discussing one thing. It felt less formal. It was fun!”

“We were learning but in a different environment and in a different way.”

“It was based around what we think and not a specific set program.”

Questions still lingering in students’ minds:

  • I am still wondering about perpetual motion machines.
  • Will endangered species become extinct?
  • I was wondering if and how long it will take for humans to teleport or time travel.
  • What can I do to help endangered animals?
  • What animals are undiscovered?
  • Is time travel real? What is string theory?
  • I wonder if it would be possible to create a computer simulator which would change the result based on the ingredients. (from a student who attended both the graphic design session and the chemistry of cooking session)
  • How long does it take for a virus to have an affect on you?
  • If you go back in time and stop your parents from meeting, would you stop living?
  • What other things [besides pet peeves] can you make into animals? feelings?
  • What inventions can make something simple really exciting?

Feedback from one of the facilitators:

Note: one of the kids wondered if you could invent a bomb that doesn't kill people, which is what John refers to towards the end of the email. This spurred lots of discussion amongst the scientists who were wondering how to create a bomb that would help people (vaccinations? medicine?) - lots of exciting thinking and wondering going on!

Thank you for the very kind note about the unConventional convention and the "Inventions" sessions.

If the students went away with half the inspiration I left with, it was a very successful morning. I expect to be amazed by the students in Yarmouth and this certainly lived up to my expectations.

We owe many thanks to you, the teachers, and the administration in Yarmouth for the interest and enthusiasm of the students. And we owe much to you for your cooperation, inspiration, and guidance with us volunteers. It really gives us hope for the world when we see the bright and inspired students that are the product of your efforts.

Please note also that I fully expect to read some day about the new bomb that Raytheon is producing that does not kill people.

Thank you.